Inspired by a book and a flawed criminal justice system, 8th graders turn learning into action.
Ninth grade is a year of powerful shared experiences. The class begins the year with a three-day trip to Cape Cod. Along with biking and hiking, the students engage in team-building activities and plan a skit for the opening school assembly about Falco's PRIDE, the school's character initiative. Back at school, they begin their high school studies with a humanities course focused on cultures and conflict, an English course that delves into contemporary literature and writing, a field-based biology course, advanced study of modern language and Latin, continuation of music electives in drumming, steel pan, and handbells, sophisticated techniques in arts, and a complex play in drama. At the heart of the ninth grade year is our exchange program with the Yali School in China. In the fall, Foote students host visitors from Yali; in the spring, our students travel to China for a two-week exploration of the country, including a four-day homestay with their Chinese peers.
This course aims to cultivate cross-cultural understanding through examination of and interaction with a variety of cultural groups, from our own multicultural community to China, the Middle East and Africa. We study the complex cultural, political and geographical forces that have shaped each region, and we follow the threads of continuity and change to examine these contemporary societies. We begin the year with a study of the United Nations to give students a framework for thinking about international issues such as human rights and conflict resolution. Throughout this project-based course, students use historical research and inquiry to view issues from multiple perspectives, using literature, films, nonfiction texts, periodicals and museum exhibits. In addition, students practice taking notes, debating, writing critically and making oral presentations. The centerpiece of the course is an optional two-week study tour in China, where students spend four nights with a host family from Yali, our sister school in Changsha. In past years, text selections have included Fires in the Mirror, Things Fall Apart, China A to Z, Red Scarf Girl, The Good Earth, In the Country of Men, and a variety of contemporary newspapers, periodicals, blogs, speeches, government documents, short stories, poems, films, historical and contemporary maps and other primary and secondary sources.
This high school-level course is composed of three parts: ecology and comparative Anatomy (fall); cellular biology and biochemistry (winter); and evolution and genetics (spring). Lab and fieldwork are important aspects of this course, as students generate knowledge from direct observations of natural and experimental phenomena and learn to evaluate this knowledge for precision, accuracy and reliability. Throughout the fall, the West River and Long Island Sound serve as living laboratories. Students evaluate the watershed using topographic maps, Google Earth software and site visits. From their data, students assess potential and actual human impacts on water quality. In teams, they carry out physical, chemical and biological sampling in the river and harbor. The anatomy of an invertebrate (crayfish) and a vertebrate (perch) are examined through dissections, and comparisons to human biology are also explored. During the winter term, the focus is on the form and function of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Representative cells and some organelles (chloroplasts, nuclei, cell walls) are observed directly using compound microscopes. Other samples are studied using electron photomicrographs and computer animation. The spring term is devoted to the study of evolution by natural selection and the principles of heredity. Mitosis, meiosis and classical genetics are studied in depth, and the structure and function of DNA is introduced.
The ninth grade writing and literature program continues to develop students' ability to analyze literature critically, both orally and in writing. The curriculum focuses on autobiography and fiction, both in complete books and excerpts. Poetry is read and written throughout the year, culminating in a "poetry cabaret" conceived and performed by the students. Multi-draft critical essays—as well as personal narrative essays, creative compositions and projects related to the reading—are assigned throughout the year. Students work on skills such as forming and supporting a thesis as they develop a strong personal voice. Mechanics and grammar are taught based on individual needs found in students' work. The month of May is devoted to discussing poems covered during the year and selecting and rehearsing material to be performed in the year-end cabaret. In recent years, texts for this course have included This Boy’s Life, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Looking for Alaska and The Book Thief.
Eighth and ninth grade math classes delve more deeply into algebraic and linear functions, complex operations and applications of mathematical thinking. Our program emphasizes Algebra I in eighth grade, either as the first half of a two-year course, as a one-year Algebra I class, or in combination with geometry for students who began Algebra I in seventh grade. Students at these upper grades also learn and practice higher-level thinking in analytical reasoning and logical deduction, and apply these skills to mathematical proofs. Ninth grade students have the opportunity to engage in more complex and sophisticated mathematical reasoning. Some students complete the two-year Algebra I program; others are enrolled in Geometry. An Algebra II course is also offered when appropriate.
The ninth grade art course presents a comprehensive overview of art history starting with prehistoric times and moving through the ages to contemporary expression. The students’ projects relate to the period being studied. For example, ninth graders reproduce Impressionist paintings emulating their chosen artist's techniques, color palette, and style. They explore a variety of media, both two and three dimensional, using materials that best express each particular art era. They make gargoyles from clay, draw and paint in the style of the Renaissance, and examine the architecture of Greek, Roman, Romanesque, and Gothic periods.
Ninth graders continue to study basic guitar. They also participate in semester-long instrumental courses, including steel pans, English handbells and world drumming. There are units in learning blues form and instrumental improvisation, and a pop colloquium in which students bring favorite recordings in order to analyze genre and musical preference. Musical genres range from blues to pop, classical, folk and jazz.
Ninth grade is the culmination of the drama program at Foote. Students spend this year studying and preparing a play for production. Usually, the play involves historic and cultural themes, and some class time is devoted to research and literary analysis of the time period, linguistic style and important contextual elements. Throughout the year, ninth grade drama classes incorporate the cumulative and sequential skills that students have learned during the course of their entire drama experience at Foote School. In-class lessons involve integrating all components of the production: organizing scenery, props and costumes (physical layout and changes during the performance); learning stage manager skills and "calling" the show; technical aspects of lighting, set construction, sound selection and making the score; and publicity.
Physical education provides rigorous physical activities and athletic skills development for ninth graders. Activities covered in classes include badminton, floor hockey, soccer, flag football, field hockey, speed walking, Frisbee, volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball and lacrosse. Interscholastic team sports offered are field hockey, cross country and soccer in the fall; basketball, squash and swimming in the winter; and lacrosse, softball, baseball and tennis in the spring. The sports program enables students to compete with students their own age from a range of regional schools.
The ninth grade Chinese program continues to build students' listening and speaking skills, as well as their aptitude in reading and writing. Their vocabulary expands through direct instruction, daily conversations and practice with common expressions and contemporary topics. The goal of the course is to improve proficiency and comprehension in conversational Chinese. Students listen to and interact with native speakers and engage through in-class videos and online services. They read stories and nonfiction selections to increase their comprehension skills. Students also participate in the Connecticut Council of Language Teachers Poetry Contest.
Ninth grade French builds on students' established foundation, introducing more complex grammatical structures (relative pronouns, ordinal numbers, comparisons with adjectives, superlative constructions, indefinite and demonstrative pronouns, adverbs, present participle constructions) and additional verb tenses, (including the imperfect, the conditional, the future and an introduction to the subjunctive). This expands vocabulary and cultural themes in order to develop the students' abilities to express themselves more fluently. Students continue to build upon and strengthen their aural and oral skills through daily conversations and the viewing of French films. Special projects may include the study of a French reader, oral presentations and participation in the COLT Poetry Contest. Students may be grouped by ability.
Ninth grade Spanish builds on students' established foundation, introducing more complex grammatical structures and expanding cultural themes. After a thorough review of the preterite vs. imperfect tenses, new material is introduced. This includes formal commands; the use of double object pronouns; the present subjunctive with ojalá and impersonal expressions; por vs. para; and the future tense. Grammar and vocabulary are introduced and practiced with native speakers on DVDs, audio CDs and online support. For any given grammar concept, activities begin with guided practice and move progressively toward freer self-expression, with numerous opportunities for both written and oral expression. Special projects may include researching and presenting an ancient Mayan or Aztec city or creating their own; a researched presentation about a famous Hispanic figure; the creation of an illustrated children's book or short story; and participation in the COLT Poetry Contest. Students may read and analyze various literary selections by authors from Spain and Latin America. Students may also visit local museums to discuss art in a variety of ways. Students may be grouped by ability.
Reading fluency and advanced topics of grammar and syntax are the focus of the ninth grade year. In addition to learning the passive voice, comparisons of adjectives, participles, indirect statements and the forms and uses of the subjunctive, students regularly translate increasingly lengthy and complex stories. Students acquire knowledge of the political, cultural and literary history of the Romans and their contributions to Western civilization. The events of the Roman Empire are studied as well as Roman food, education, baths, gladiators, weddings and religion. Students develop independent research skills through an in-depth study of an emperor of their choice. Emphasis is placed on preparation for reading original Latin texts. Enrichment of the students' English vocabulary and methodical thinking are also stressed. Special projects may include poetry recitation, a Roman banquet, and a Roman artifact project based on an object in the Yale University Art Gallery’s collection. An accelerated honors level course is offered. Students are grouped by ability.
The sixth grade Festival of the World caps a yearlong study of global cultures, religions and geography. Each student studies a different country, creating a range of informational and artistic projects, including a model of a famous landmark.